Yet another Chicago Alderman is headed to prison after being handed a one-year sentence for defrauding a personal charity. According to prosecutors, Willie Cochran used his charitable fund to pay for gambling trips, expensive meals, and accessories for his Mercedes. Cochran pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which ended his City Council position.
Cochran’s lawyers hoped to secure probation for their client with six months of house arrest. Instead, Cochran will spend the next year behind bars.
Since 1972, 30 Chicago Aldermen have been convicted of crimes and several more have been charged. Cochrane, who was charged by federal authorities, will spend the next year in federal prison along with several other Chicago Aldermen who were convicted in a federal sting aimed at uprooting corruption in the Chicago City Council. These include “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak and William Beavers who were both convicted after leaving the City Council and most recently, Edward Burke who is accused of using his position to force prospective developers to use his tax law firm to secure building permits. Another Alderman, Carrie Austin, is under investigation for the suspicious purchase and construction of a Chicago home.
Cochrane Used Charity Fund Like a Personal Bank Account
Cochrane’s charity fund was supposed to go to needy children and families. However, prosecutors were able to show how he used the fund to pay for his daughter’s college tuition and make cash withdrawals at casinos as well as several other purchases. All told, Cochrane stole $14,000 from the charity. By the time Cochrane was through with the fund, it had $7 left in its account.
Attorneys for Cochrane argued that imprisoning Aldermen for the abuse of their position has not, in fact, curbed corruption at City Hall. Instead, Aldermanic abuse continues and, hence, sending Cochrane to prison would not have the desired effect of curbing future corruption. However, prosecutors and the judge did not care and described the argument as “irrational and worthy of derision.”
Aldermen in Prison
By now, federal prisons have enough Aldermen in them to start their own prison gang. However, federal prosecutors and agents believe that rooting out corruption at Chicago City Hall is doing some good. Not only is it evening the playing field for political candidates who play by the rules, it is establishing that there still are some rules. Nonetheless, if your average citizen were to steal $14,000, they would be facing a much stiffer sentence. While Cochrane stands accused of wire fraud, he could have been charged with grand theft which has a maximum sentence of seven years. But when you steal the money from your own charity, it is fraud, not theft. So the Alderman will get one year instead of a minimum of three.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are a Chicago Alderman, then you are probably under investigation for a major crime. Contact the Chicago criminal defense attorney David Freidberg at (312) 560-7100 and we will come up with a better defense than, “imprisoning Aldermen has not curbed corruption.”
(image courtesy of Robert Hickerson)